High schoolers create their own video game at CBU’s first computer coding camp for Deaf students

High schoolers create their own video game at CBU’s first computer coding camp for Deaf students

RIVERSIDE, Calif. March 26, 2024 – In the first-of-its-kind high school computer coding camp for Deaf students, California Baptist University (CBU) partnered with California School for the Deaf Riverside (CSDR) to give 10 Deaf high schoolers the coding knowledge to develop their own video game, and more importantly, demonstrate that pursuing a degree in engineering is a career choice that can be rewarding on multiple levels.

“I really like technology,” says Darius Zarembka, a junior at California School for the Deaf, Riverside. “I enjoy playing video games, so I was interested in this camp because it’s my first time creating one myself.”

Students sat in awe as Dr. Ben Sanders, assistant professor of computing science and data science at CBU, taught coding fundamentals and wrote lines of code on the whiteboard for students to copy into high-tech computers. CBU hired American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters and had ASL student volunteers help interpret through the two-day camp that took place on March 7 and 21 at the Gordon and Jill Bourns College of Engineering. By the end of the camp, students showed off their new coding skills by demonstrating their video game with a storyline similar to Pac-Man. In their version, a green snake gobbled up red dots to grow bigger and stronger.

“We are thrilled to host these high school students from the California School for the Deaf, Riverside,” says Dr. Phil van Haaster, dean of the CBU College of Engineering. “Engineering is a lucrative field with endless career possibilities, and this camp is a fun way to introduce the students to the world of coding and creativity.”

The coding camp for Deaf students was a result of CBU’s commitment to provide opportunities for all students to receive a high-quality education and help them find their purpose. CBU has a Center for Deaf Studies that offers a minor in ASL and is heavily involved with the Deaf community. In fact, CBU graduate Kevin Willis, a Deaf pilot and dispatch instructor for CBU’s Aviation Sciences program, stopped by the camp to tell his story and inspire the students to take the road less traveled in life and career.

The College of Engineering recognized a need to leverage students and faculty to broaden opportunities for the Deaf community and thus began a conversation between CBU and CSDR about potential programs for the Deaf community at CBU. This camp was made possible by a gift from donors to fund the first year’s camp and to set up an endowment for future Computer Science camps with CSDR.

With only 22% of Deaf people in the United States having completed a bachelor’s degree compared to 37.7% of hearing people, camps like this provide an important opportunity for Deaf high school students to be inspired to continue learning at the university level. The College of Engineering helps meet that need by providing opportunities to develop interest in a field of study that may otherwise be overlooked.  

“It’s important that we give our students multiple opportunities to explore their interests and excel at their hobbies, which helps shape their future educational and career goals,” says Erika Thompson, outreach resource specialist at CSDR.

About California Baptist University and the Gordon and Jill Bourns College of Engineering

Founded in 1950, California Baptist University is a private comprehensive institution located in Riverside, California. CBU offers more than 150 degree programs, including bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, and credential programs. Affiliated with the California Southern Baptist Convention, CBU is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities, and the International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities. The mission of the Gordon and Jill Bourns College of Engineering is to prepare engineering students of excellence and character with a Christian worldview who are called to serve, equipped to lead, and sent to engage the world with their lives and the appropriate use of technology.

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